The momentous announcement on Friday (Jan. 20) about Canada’s willingness to go into the commercial launch market is still garnering industry praise.
After hearing from Maritime Launch Services (MLS), which told SpaceQ it is thrilled by the announcement, one of the spaceport’s partners is also giving high praise for the opportunities the government support will bring.
“We are absolutely ecstatic,” Reaction Dynamics’ founder and CEO Bachar Elzein said in a new interview.
Pointing to the work his company has Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu-based company has done since its founding in 2017, including its ambitions to soon launch clean-tech rockets from the MLS spaceport in Canso, Nova Scotia and other locations, Elzein said the federal government support “will add a lot of comfort” to Canadian industry.
“We also see it as an opportunity for Canada today to take the leadership on environmentally friendly launches, and look at commercial launch from a different perspective,” Elzein said.
There has been a surge of commercial providers – particularly in Europe – advertising mobile launch facilities with minimal impact on the environment, but Elzein said protecting the environment also comes down to responsible use of fuels.
Reaction Dynamics’ RE-201/2 hybrid rocket engine aims to use a combination of liquid and solid fuel propulsion on the road to creating far less carbon dioxide than the competition. The rocket, called Aurora, is said to be the first orbital-capable hybrid rocket and will be using a patent-pending propulsion system that is advertised as cheaper than the usual liquid fuel for rocket engines.
Reaction Dynamics has had a busy past year, including doubling its headcount from about 25 to 50 – and expecting to grow to about 70 people by the end of 2023. Customer growth is also expected to ramp up quickly, including through a new partnership with Precious Payload.
Precious Payload advertises itself as a “digital service for engineering teams planning to launch their satellite.” In essence, what it does is serve as a matchmaker between companies looking to launch small satellites, and the rocket builders seeking to fill out their manifests.
For Reaction Dynamics – especially as it is environmentally conscious – the company does not want to launch any rocket with excess capacity, Elzein said. There is also a benefit for customers on a full rocket as it allows them to “pay the cheapest price per kilo.”
Naturally, there are complications as the customers on board a particular launch would all want to be in approximately similar orbits and inclination; some customers may have flexible destinations, while some may require a more firm location, Elzein said.
But Precious Payload has a growing database of customers with their specific requirements that Reaction Dynamics can tap into to provide launching opportunities and also, to grow the Quebec company’s own business.
Incidentally, Elzein says the partnership is not just limited to Canadian launches – but the key is that wherever the customer chooses to launch, they must meet the regulations of the local authority. Precious Payload will also be of assistance in keeping track of the necessary paperwork to ensure customers are ready for their opportunities, he said.
Reaction Dynamics forecasts a busy 2023: “the next few months will be very critical to our development,” Elzein says, as the company has several major milestones it is working to hit – hence the quick growth in headcount.
The company wants to have an integrated demonstration launch of its vehicle in the first half of 2023, and to have an operational suborbital launch in the second half. The first orbital launch with its Aurora rocket may happen in 2024 if that all goes to plan.
Notably, MLS and Reaction Dynamics have signed a letter of intent for future small launch services in the short term and in a few years, medium-launch to low Earth orbit. New announcements will also be made with regard to funding and fundraising, but Elzein said nothing more can be discussed publicly at this time.
The Canadian Space Agency has already supported Reaction Dynamics through Space Technology Development Program contributions and CSA representatives took a tour of the Reaction Dynamics facilities late last year.
Details are still forthcoming on all these plans as before getting too far, the company wants to achieve a long-duration burn on its rocket engine.
“We’re aiming to have this done in the next few weeks,” Elzein said, but cautioned that engineering needs must come before the timeline. Joking that rocket engines have “a mind of their own,” he pointed out that unexpected issues can always arise – hence the ground testing before seeking a launch.